The theme park industry is all about making fantastical things feel real and making dreams come true, but the business has been more of a nightmare for the last 11 months. It was March of 2020 when we began to see theme parks closing and while many have reopened since, it's been far from business as usual. Business, due to the nature of social distancing, has been a fraction of normal for Universal Orlando Resort. But the theme park location had some good news to report recently as it seems that, while business may be smaller, the park is close to being profitable. What's more, Universal's theme park business overall is seemingly in pretty good shape all things considered.
A recent Comcast earnings call (via Blooloop) confirmed that while Universal Parks & Resorts business is still in the red overall, most of that is due to the costs associated with the as yet still under construction new resort in Beijing, China, and not due to significant loses at Universal Orlando Resort. When you take the costs in China out of the equation, Universal Parks & Resorts is breaking even. The Parks division has been on an upward trend has been on an upward trend since parks began to reopen slowly last summer, which would indicate profitability is possible very soon.
Universal's theme park resort in Japan has also seen difficulties due to surges in coronavirus in that country, The park recently delayed the opening of its Super Nintendo World in response. But there's clearly some good news to be had.
While Universal Orlando Resort is only running at a fraction of max capacity, it's doing so with a fraction of the employees as well-- so costs are not as high as they usually are either. These things don't scale perfectly of course, so balancing things so the resort still makes money can take some work. The park has likely increased capacity somewhat since last summer, we know Walt Disney World has done so, which has certainly helped the bottom line.
While this is good news, there is a significant downside as, in order to get to this break even point, Universal Orlando had to undergo some significant layoffs. And while the existing theme parks will certainly return at some point down the road, Epic Universe, the third gate that had barely begun construction when the pandemic hit is now delayed. And construction is not expected to resume for years. There are even some rumors the new park has been canceled, although it was not mentioned during the earnings call.
With the vaccine rollout finally happening it certainly appears that all things theme park will finally begin to improve, however slowly that might be. With park capacity certainly able to increase thank to the vaccine, combined with new attractions like Universal Orlando's Velocicoaster on the way, the resort should be back in the black very soon.